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Sarkozy wins court fight to rename his party ‘Les Républicains’


Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy won a court fight on Tuesday for the right to rename his conservative party "The Républicains", a prelude to an expected attempt to win back the presidency in 2017


A French court dismissed demands for an emergency ban on Sarkozy's plan to change his party's name from the clunkier Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Dozens of people had filed an emergency complaint to stop the rebranding, arguing that the name, by alluding to France's Fifth Republic, founded 57 years ago, was an attempt by the political right to usurp the values of the entire nation.

But a Paris judge ruled there was no justification for an emergency ban. The plaintiffs can appeal the ruling and can also file a regular complaint, but that would take months to be processed.

"Freedom won! We'll be able to call ourselves The Républicains!" lawmaker Daniel Fasquelle said on Twitter.

Sarkozy, defeated by Socialist François Hollande in May 2012 after five years in power, came out of political retirement last year.

A 'semantic hold-up'

The complaint against the name change was filed by left-wing officials and organisations including the National Federation of Socialists and Republicans, according to a press release issued by lawyers for the group earlier this month.

"Our clients believe that it is unthinkable to privatise the republican ideal. We are thrilled that the justice has recognised the urgent need for a summary judgement on this question of principle,” they said.

"By deciding that they will henceforth be known as ‘Les Républicains’, the UMP has deliberately stirred up major civil, social and political strife in France,” the lawyers said.

Left-wing daily La Libération called the proposed name-change a "semantic hold-up" while finance minister and senior Socialist Michel Sapin said it was disingenuous as many French, of all political persuasions, could call themselves Républicains.

After being named UMP chairman last November, Sarkozy promised to help his party end years of internal disputes and combat France's resurgent far-right.

"For me the era of acronyms is over," Sarkozy told weekly Journal du Dimanche in April. "It's high time we stood up for the values of the Republic rather than destroying them."

The name change, already backed by the party's leadership, is expected to be approved by its members in an electronic vote on Thursday and Friday ahead of a party congress on Saturday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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